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From: m.driussi@genie.com
Subject: (urth) Re: WWI tactics
Date: Mon, 30 Nov 98 18:32:00 GMT

As my last ditch defense, I'll blame it all on John Crowley's (award
winning?) "Great Work of Time":

"She told how in those same years the European powers who confronted
each other in Africa were also at work stockpiling arms and building
mechanized armies to a size unheard of in the history of the world,
to be finally let loose upon one another in August of 1914,
unprepared for what was to become of them; armies officered by men
who still lived in the previous century, but armed with weapons more
dreadful than they could imagine.  The machine gun: no one seemed to
understand that the machine gun had changed war forever, and though
the junior officers and Other Ranks soon learned it, the commanders
never did. At the First Battle of the Somme wave after wave of
British soldiers were sent against German machine guns, to be mown
down like grain.  There were a quarter of a million casualties in
that battle.  And yet the generals went on ordering massed attacks
against machine guns for the four long years of the war.

"`But they knew,' Denys could not help saying. `They did know.
Machine guns had been used against massed native armies for years,
all over the Empire.  In Afghanistan.  In the Sudan.  Africa.  They

"`Yes,' Huntington said. `They knew.  And yet, in the Original
Situation [i.e., our history], they paid no attention.  They went
blindly on and made their dreadful mistakes.  Why?  How could they be
so stupid, those generals and statesmen who in the
[optimized-by-time-travelers] world you knew behaved so wisely and so
well?  [For example: WWI only lasted one year in the optimized
timeline.]  For one reason only: they lacked the help and knowledge of a
group of men and women who had seen all those mistakes made [a secret
society of time travelers]'" (NOVELTY, p. 96).

Crowley is using this sentiment as a key point for a time travel
story (after all, it is nearly impossible to get a time travel
adventure going if you posit ala CANDIDE that this is the best of all
possible worlds [because it is the only world] and that history
[military history, especially] is already optimized by the best
people making the best decisions--all of which takes the Wind out of
"What if?" scenarios from PAVANE to "Back to the Future"), so we
can't say how much he believes it himself . . . OTOH, he does list
John Ellis's book THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF THE MACHINE GUN (1975) as one
of the inspiring texts for the story.  FWIW.

And no, I didn't/don't learn WWI from Crowley's fiction, but I have
been re-reading this fiction and so the example and its sentiment
(which has, alas, taken all the attention) were close at hand.


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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